* Jewell is conservationist from Pacific Northwest
* Previous jobs include banker, Mobil Oil engineer
* Skeptical response from some Republican lawmakers
By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON, Feb 6 Sally Jewell, a retail
executive and outdoor enthusiast, is President Barack Obama's
pick to oversee the national parks and vast energy reserves on
public lands as U.S. interior secretary.
Obama nominated Jewell, chief executive of outdoor retailer
REI, on Wednesday, calling her an "expert on the energy and
climate issues that are going to shape our future" as well as a
savvy executive who understands the link between conservation
and economic progress.
Jewell is the first woman chosen to join Obama's second-term
Cabinet, which has been criticized as lacking diversity.
"I am humbled and I'm energized by this opportunity," Jewell
said in a brief White House ceremony, where she was introduced
by outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Her background, which includes a stint as an oil company
engineer, won praise from conservationists and some industry
groups, but Jewell's nomination drew skepticism from some
"I look forward to hearing about the qualifications Ms.
Jewell has that make her a suitable candidate to run such an
important agency, and how she plans to restore balance to the
Interior Department," said U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of
Alaska, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Energy and
Murkowski has criticized the department, including its
decision in December to open about half the vast National
Petroleum Reserve in Alaska's North Slope to drilling, which she
said was not enough.
David Vitter of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee, said he wanted to learn
Jewell's views on the administration's five-year offshore oil
leasing plan, which he has argued should allow for expanded
drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Jewell, 56, has been a leader in land conservation in the
Pacific Northwest, but she worked in the energy and banking
sectors earlier in her career.
Besides managing the U.S. National Park Service, the
Interior Department oversees about a fifth of the nation's land
mass and vast offshore oil fields.
Interior has a strong say in rules that govern hydraulic
fracturing, or fracking, on public lands as well as drilling for
oil and gas in the Arctic. It will help implement the
president's push for more renewable energy development on
EXPERIENCE IN FINANCE
Jewell joined Recreational Equipment Inc as a board member
in 1996 before taking over as chief operating officer in 2000
and then later as CEO of the national retail chain.
A graduate of the University of Washington, where she now
serves as a regent, Jewell began her career as an engineer at
Mobil Oil Corp, working in Oklahoma and Colorado.
At Washington's Rainier National Bank in the early 1980s,
she gained a reputation for rejecting risky loans to the oil and
gas sector, inoculating the bank from a string of failures when
the Oklahoma and Texas oil boom went bust.
"Her experience as a petroleum engineer and business leader
will bring a unique perspective to an office that is key to our
nation's energy portfolio," the Western Energy Alliance said in
Jewell's recognition from many environmental groups, and the
reputation of Washington state-based REI for conservation and
environmental stewardship efforts, seemed certain to draw
"We're not going to get excited that she's suddenly going to
change course from the current anti-energy policies of the Obama
administration," said Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise
But the group said Jewell did not seem to be a "lock it up
and throw away the key preservationist," and Ebell said CEI did
not plan to oppose her nomination.
Jewell is an outdoorswoman who lists snowboarding and
kayaking among her hobbies and has climbed Vinson Massif,
Antarctica's highest mountain. She served on the "National Parks
Second Century Commission," whose goal was to help shape the
future of the National Parks System.
"In Jewell, President Obama chose a leader with a
demonstrated commitment to preserving the higher purposes public
lands hold for all Americans - recreation, adventure, and
enjoyment," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra
Club, one of many environmental groups praising the choice.
About 30 percent of U.S. oil and gas production and 40
percent of the nation's coal come from land managed by Interior,
according to the agency's website. The department collected
roughly $12 billion in revenue from federal land last year.
Interior has come under scrutiny in recent years for giving
industry undue sway in awarding contracts and collecting too
little royalty revenue.
Last month, the Senate energy committee asked the department
to investigate whether mining companies were shortchanging the
government on coal export royalties.
Obama is remaking his energy and environmental team at a
time when the nation is responding to a surge in shale oil and
gas development that has transformed the U.S. energy outlook.
The president has said he hopes to reduce the country's
reliance on carbon fuels blamed for climate change.
Jewell has received several awards for her work in
environmental conservation. As a leader with the Mountains to
Sound Greenway Trust, an initiative to create a green corridor
around the Puget Sound to inland Washington State, Jewell has
worked with government and private interests to protect land for
conservation and recreational use.
The president has yet to name replacements for Lisa Jackson,
the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and Steven
Chu, the Energy Secretary, both of whom have announced their
Jewell's Senate confirmation hearings have not been